Person of the Week
Peg Patierno: Dedicated to the Cause
Inveterate volunteer Margaret “Peg” Patierno has called Westbrook home for the past 26 years. (Photo by Eric O’Connell/Harbor News)
Margaret Patierno moved to Westbrook in 1995. With her children grown, Margaret—or Peg, as she’s known to her friends—decided to acclimate to her new community by volunteering. Ever since then Peg has become known to so many for her dedication to a variety of causes.
Upon arriving in Westbrook from Cheshire, the first place Peg volunteered in town was at the food pantry at St. Mark’s Catholic Church.
“We had been involved in the pantry in Cheshire so we got involved right away,” Peg says.
Peg doesn’t deliver the food, saying she prefers “being a behind-the-scenes person” who packs groceries instead.
“When I first started, we stood in the closet and made bags. It was so small,” Peg says with a laugh.
Beyond the service aspects, Peg says she enjoys the social perks as well.
“It’s a wonderful ministry we have here, we all do a lot of chatting while we put the bags together,” adds Peg.
“I’ve been a volunteer all my life,” Peg sums up during a recent chat.
In fact, following the interview for this story, she was off to St. Mark’s in Westbrook to stuff letters for the Haitian Committee, a church group that partners with a church in Haiti to help people in need. More than 20 years ago, Peg was one of the founders of the group soon after she moved to Westbrook.
“The children [in Haiti] are beautiful, they’re friendly, and they’re in need. I feel fortunate to be able to help them,” Peg says.
The committee works with other churches in the Norwich dioceses to support people in Haiti. Peg’s group in particular focuses on providing educational opportunities, but they will also help with food and nutrition drives, reconstruction projects, and meeting other needs.
Peg has taken three trips to Haiti, and each trip has left quite the impression on her.
“Little do you know that once you go to Haiti, you’re never going to be the same,” says Peg.
Peg says that volunteering her time is something that came naturally to her. She’s led service missions with her sorority, volunteered at her church in high school, and even offered to babysit for no pay when she was younger. It’s a trait she says she inherited from her parents.
“I was in service organizations all through high school. With my family, if someone needed help, we pitched in,” Peg says.
“It beats cleaning the house and doing laundry,” Peg adds, laughing.
It isn’t just Westbrook and her other local communities that have benefited from Peg’s volunteer work. For years, Peg volunteered with the Red Cross. In particular, Peg focused on disaster zones and made 19 trips to various disaster locations all around the country.
“It was a lot of work, a lot of training for earthquakes, floods, following up on case work, driving, you name it we did it,” says Peg.
Even with all the work—”We worked very hard, 12-hour days, lifting and unloading trucks”—Peg says it was a rewarding experience every time.
Peg was even recognized during her time with the organization for her ability to defuse situations. One such situation that sticks out in her mind was when angry man showed up after having trouble submitting his claim, and after yelling at the workers, someone got Peg.
“I was often chosen to work with the more troubled people because I guess I can be calming. I took it as a great compliment,” Peg says.
Eventually, Peg says she had to scale back her ability to travel for the Red Cross after the physical part became too much. She does remain involved, though.
“I still help with blood drives six times a year,” Peg proudly notes.
She also still can be found at the food pantry twice a week, and after Masses, selling raffle tickets or postcards for the Haitian Committee.
Peg grew up on Long Island and moved to Connecticut soon after college. After living in Cheshire and raising her children, Peg moved to Westbrook 26 years ago.
“It’s a friendly town, I enjoy going to the church very much. When we moved here, I got involved right away and made friends right away too,” Peg says.
In her spare time, she can be found playing bridge, going to the Y, walking, and gardening. She is an avid traveler who has been to 127 different countries some for pleasure, and some, you guessed it, to volunteer.
“I had a chance to teach English in Indonesia for a time,” Peg explains. “It’s just always been my life to go do something.”